Part 1 out of 15
Scanned by Martin Adamson
by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Translated by Eva Martin
Towards the end of November, during a thaw, at nine o'clock one
morning, a train on the Warsaw and Petersburg railway was
approaching the latter city at full speed. The morning was so
damp and misty that it was only with great difficulty that the
day succeeded in breaking; and it was impossible to distinguish
anything more than a few yards away from the carriage windows.
Some of the passengers by this particular train were returning
from abroad; but the third-class carriages were the best filled,
chiefly with insignificant persons of various occupations and
degrees, picked up at the different stations nearer town. All of
them seemed weary, and most of them had sleepy eyes and a
shivering expression, while their complexions generally appeared
to have taken on the colour of the fog outside.
When day dawned, two passengers in one of the third-class
carriages found themselves opposite each other. Both were young
fellows, both were rather poorly dressed, both had remarkable
faces, and both were evidently anxious to start a conversation.
If they had but known why, at this particular moment, they were
both remarkable persons, they would undoubtedly have wondered at
the strange chance which had set them down opposite to one
another in a third-class carriage of the Warsaw Railway Company.
One of them was a young fellow of about twenty-seven, not tall,
with black curling hair, and small, grey, fiery eyes. His nose
was broad and flat, and he had high cheek bones; his thin lips
were constantly compressed into an impudent, ironical--it might
almost be called a malicious--smile; but his forehead was high
and well formed, and atoned for a good deal of the ugliness of
the lower part of his face. A special feature of this physiognomy
was its death-like pallor, which gave to the whole man an
indescribably emaciated appearance in spite of his hard look, and
at the same time a sort of passionate and suffering expression
which did not harmonize with his impudent, sarcastic smile and
keen, self-satisfied bearing. He wore a large fur--or rather
astrachan--overcoat, which had kept him warm all night, while his
neighbour had been obliged to bear the full severity of a Russian
November night entirely unprepared. His wide sleeveless mantle
with a large cape to it--the sort of cloak one sees upon
travellers during the winter months in Switzerland or North
Italy--was by no means adapted to the long cold journey through
Russia, from Eydkuhnen to St. Petersburg.
The wearer of this cloak was a young fellow, also of about
twenty-six or twenty-seven years of age, slightly above the
middle height, very fair, with a thin, pointed and very light
coloured beard; his eyes were large and blue, and had an intent
look about them, yet that heavy expression which some people
affirm to be a peculiarity. as well as evidence, of an epileptic
subject. His face was decidedly a pleasant one for all that;
refined, but quite colourless, except for the circumstance that
at this moment it was blue with cold. He held a bundle made up of
an old faded silk handkerchief that apparently contained all his
travelling wardrobe, and wore thick shoes and gaiters, his whole
appearance being very un-Russian.
His black-haired neighbour inspected these peculiarities, having
nothing better to do, and at length remarked, with that rude
enjoyment of the discomforts of others which the common classes
so often show:
"Very," said his neighbour, readily. "and this is a thaw, too.
Fancy if it had been a hard frost! I never thought it would be so
cold in the old country. I've grown quite out of the way of it."
"What, been abroad, I suppose?"
"Yes, straight from Switzerland."
"Wheugh! my goodness!" The black-haired young fellow whistled,
and then laughed.
The conversation proceeded. The readiness of the fair-haired
young man in the cloak to answer all his opposite neighbour's
questions was surprising. He seemed to have no suspicion of any
impertinence or inappropriateness in the fact of such questions
being put to him. Replying to them, he made known to the inquirer
that he certainly had been long absent from Russia, more than
four years; that he had been sent abroad for his health; that he
had suffered from some strange nervous malady--a kind of
epilepsy, with convulsive spasms. His interlocutor burst out
laughing several times at his answers; and more than ever, when
to the question, " whether he had been cured?" the patient
"No, they did not cure me."
"Hey! that's it! You stumped up your money for nothing, and we
believe in those fellows, here!" remarked the black-haired
"Gospel truth, sir, Gospel truth!" exclaimed another passenger, a
shabbily dressed man of about forty, who looked like a clerk, and
possessed a red nose and a very blotchy face. "Gospel truth! All
they do is to get hold of our good Russian money free, gratis,
and for nothing. "
"Oh, but you're quite wrong in my particular instance," said the
Swiss patient, quietly. "Of course I can't argue the matter,
because I know only my own case; but my doctor gave me money--and
he had very little--to pay my journey back, besides having kept
me at his own expense, while there, for nearly two years."
"Why? Was there no one else to pay for you?" asked the black-
"No--Mr. Pavlicheff, who had been supporting me there, died a
couple of years ago. I wrote to Mrs. General Epanchin at the time
(she is a distant relative of mine), but she did not answer my
letter. And so eventually I came back."
"And where have you come to?"
"That is--where am I going to stay? I--I really don't quite know
Both the listeners laughed again.
"I suppose your whole set-up is in that bundle, then?" asked the
"I bet anything it is!" exclaimed the red-nosed passenger, with
extreme satisfaction, "and that he has precious little in the
luggage van!--though of course poverty is no crime--we must
It appeared that it was indeed as they had surmised. The young
fellow hastened to admit the fact with wonderful readiness.
"Your bundle has some importance, however," continued the clerk,
when they had laughed their fill (it was observable that the
subject of their mirth joined in the laughter when he saw them
laughing); "for though I dare say it is not stuffed full of
friedrichs d'or and louis d'or--judge from your costume and
gaiters--still--if you can add to your possessions such a
valuable property as a relation like Mrs. General Epanchin, then
your bundle becomes a significant object at once. That is, of
course, if you really are a relative of Mrs. Epanchin's, and have
not made a little error through--well, absence of mind, which is
very common to human beings; or, say--through a too luxuriant
"Oh, you are right again," said the fair-haired traveller, "for I
really am ALMOST wrong when I say she and I are related. She is
hardly a relation at all; so little, in fact, that I was not in
the least surprised to have no answer to my letter. I expected as
"H'm! you spent your postage for nothing, then. H'm! you are
candid, however--and that is commendable. H'm! Mrs. Epanchin--oh
yes! a most eminent person. I know her. As for Mr. Pavlicheff,
who supported you in Switzerland, I know him too--at least, if it
was Nicolai Andreevitch of that name? A fine fellow he was--and
had a property of four thousand souls in his day."
"Yes, Nicolai Andreevitch--that was his name," and the young
fellow looked earnestly and with curiosity at the all-knowing
gentleman with the red nose.
This sort of character is met with pretty frequently in a certain
class. They are people who know everyone--that is, they know
where a man is employed, what his salary is, whom he knows, whom
he married, what money his wife had, who are his cousins, and
second cousins, etc., etc. These men generally have about a
hundred pounds a year to live on, and they spend their whole time
and talents in the amassing of this style of knowledge, which
they reduce--or raise--to the standard of a science.
During the latter part of the conversation the black-haired young
man had become very impatient. He stared out of the window, and
fidgeted, and evidently longed for the end of the journey. He was
very absent; he would appear to listen-and heard nothing; and he
would laugh of a sudden, evidently with no idea of what he was
"Excuse me," said the red-nosed man to the young fellow with the
bundle, rather suddenly; "whom have I the honour to be talking
"Prince Lef Nicolaievitch Muishkin," replied the latter, with
"Prince Muishkin? Lef Nicolaievitch? H'm! I don't know, I'm sure!
I may say I have never heard of such a person," said the clerk,
thoughtfully. "At least, the name, I admit, is historical.
Karamsin must mention the family name, of course, in his history-
-but as an individual--one never hears of any Prince Muishkin
"Of course not," replied the prince; "there are none, except
myself. I believe I am the last and only one. As to my
forefathers, they have always been a poor lot; my own father was
a sublieutenant in the army. I don't know how Mrs. Epanchin comes
into the Muishkin family, but she is descended from the Princess
Muishkin, and she, too, is the last of her line."
"And did you learn science and all that, with your professor over
there?" asked the black-haired passenger.
"Oh yes--I did learn a little, but--"
"I've never learned anything whatever," said the other.
"Oh, but I learned very little, you know!" added the prince, as
though excusing himself. "They could not teach me very much on
account of my illness. "
"Do you know the Rogojins?" asked his questioner, abruptly.
"No, I don't--not at all! I hardly know anyone in Russia. Why, is
that your name?"
"Yes, I am Rogojin, Parfen Rogojin."
"Parfen Rogojin? dear me--then don't you belong to those very
Rogojins, perhaps--" began the clerk, with a very perceptible
increase of civility in his tone.
"Yes--those very ones," interrupted Rogojin, impatiently, and
with scant courtesy. I may remark that he had not once taken any
notice of the blotchy-faced passenger, and had hitherto addressed
all his remarks direct to the prince.
"Dear me--is it possible?" observed the clerk, while his face
assumed an expression of great deference and servility--if not of
absolute alarm: "what, a son of that very Semen Rogojin--
hereditary honourable citizen--who died a month or so ago and
left two million and a half of roubles?"
"And how do YOU know that he left two million and a half of
roubles?" asked Rogojin, disdainfully, and no deigning so much as
to look at the other. "However, it's true enough that my father
died a month ago, and that here am I returning from Pskoff, a
month after, with hardly a boot to my foot. They've treated me like
a dog! I've been ill of fever at Pskoff the whole time, and not a
line, nor farthing of money, have I received from my mother or my
"And now you'll have a million roubles, at least--goodness
gracious me!" exclaimed the clerk, rubbing his hands.
"Five weeks since, I was just like yourself," continued Rogojin,
addressing the prince, "with nothing but a bundle and the clothes
I wore. I ran away from my father and came to Pskoff to my aunt's
house, where I caved in at once with fever, and he went and died
while I was away. All honour to my respected father's memory--but
he uncommonly nearly killed me, all the same. Give you my word,
prince, if I hadn't cut and run then, when I did, he'd have
murdered me like a dog."
"I suppose you angered him somehow?" asked the prince, looking at
the millionaire with considerable curiosity But though there may
have been something remarkable in the fact that this man was heir
to millions of roubles there was something about him which
surprised and interested the prince more than that. Rogojin, too,
seemed to have taken up the conversation with unusual alacrity it
appeared that he was still in a considerable state of excitement,
if not absolutely feverish, and was in real need of someone to
talk to for the mere sake of talking, as safety-valve to his
As for his red-nosed neighbour, the latter--since the information
as to the identity of Rogojin--hung over him, seemed to be living
on the honey of his words and in the breath of his nostrils,
catching at every syllable as though it were a pearl of great
"Oh, yes; I angered him--I certainly did anger him," replied
Rogojin. "But what puts me out so is my brother. Of course my
mother couldn't do anything--she's too old--and whatever brother
Senka says is law for her! But why couldn't he let me know? He
sent a telegram, they say. What's the good of a telegram? It
frightened my aunt so that she sent it back to the office
unopened, and there it's been ever since! It's only thanks to
Konief that I heard at all; he wrote me all about it. He says my
brother cut off the gold tassels from my father's coffin, at
night because they're worth a lot of money!' says he. Why, I can
get him sent off to Siberia for that alone, if I like; it's
sacrilege. Here, you--scarecrow!" he added, addressing the clerk
at his side, "is it sacrilege or not, by law?'
"Sacrilege, certainly--certainly sacrilege," said the latter.
"And it's Siberia for sacrilege, isn't it?"
"Undoubtedly so; Siberia, of course!"
"They will think that I'm still ill," continued Rogojin to the
prince, "but I sloped off quietly, seedy as I was, took the train
and came away. Aha, brother Senka, you'll have to open your gates
and let me in, my boy! I know he told tales about me to my
father--I know that well enough but I certainly did rile my
father about Nastasia Philipovna that's very sure, and that was
my own doing."
"Nastasia Philipovna?" said the clerk, as though trying to think
"Come, you know nothing about HER," said Rogojin, impatiently.
"And supposing I do know something?" observed the other,
"Bosh! there are plenty of Nastasia Philipovnas. And what an
impertinent beast you are!" he added angrily. "I thought some
creature like you would hang on to me as soon as I got hold of my
"Oh, but I do know, as it happens," said the clerk in an
aggravating manner. "Lebedeff knows all about her. You are
pleased to reproach me, your excellency, but what if I prove that
I am right after all? Nastasia Phillpovna's family name is
Barashkoff--I know, you see-and she is a very well known lady,
indeed, and comes of a good family, too. She is connected with
one Totski, Afanasy Ivanovitch, a man of considerable property, a
director of companies, and so on, and a great friend of General
Epanchin, who is interested in the same matters as he is."
"My eyes!" said Rogojin, really surprised at last. "The devil
take the fellow, how does he know that?"
"Why, he knows everything--Lebedeff knows everything! I was a
month or two with Lihachof after his father died, your
excellency, and while he was knocking about--he's in the debtor's
prison now--I was with him, and he couldn't do a thing without
Lebedeff; and I got to know Nastasia Philipovna and several
people at that time."
"Nastasia Philipovna? Why, you don't mean to say that she and
Lihachof--" cried Rogojin, turning quite pale.
"No, no, no, no, no! Nothing of the sort, I assure you!" said
Lebedeff, hastily. "Oh dear no, not for the world! Totski's the
only man with any chance there. Oh, no! He takes her to his box
at the opera at the French theatre of an evening, and the
officers and people all look at her and say, 'By Jove, there's
the famous Nastasia Philipovna!' but no one ever gets any further
than that, for there is nothing more to say."
"Yes, it's quite true," said Rogojin, frowning gloomily; "so
Zaleshoff told me. I was walking about the Nefsky one fine day,
prince, in my father's old coat, when she suddenly came out of a
shop and stepped into her carriage. I swear I was all of a blaze
at once. Then I met Zaleshoff--looking like a hair-dresser's
assistant, got up as fine as I don't know who, while I looked
like a tinker. 'Don't flatter yourself, my boy,' said he; 'she's
not for such as you; she's a princess, she is, and her name is
Nastasia Philipovna Barashkoff, and she lives with Totski, who
wishes to get rid of her because he's growing rather old--fifty-
five or so--and wants to marry a certain beauty, the loveliest
woman in all Petersburg.' And then he told me that I could see
Nastasia Philipovna at the opera-house that evening, if I liked,
and described which was her box. Well, I'd like to see my father
allowing any of us to go to the theatre; he'd sooner have killed
us, any day. However, I went for an hour or so and saw Nastasia
Philipovna, and I never slept a wink all night after. Next
morning my father happened to give me two government loan bonds
to sell, worth nearly five thousand roubles each. 'Sell them,'
said he, 'and then take seven thousand five hundred roubles to
the office, give them to the cashier, and bring me back the rest
of the ten thousand, without looking in anywhere on the way; look
sharp, I shall be waiting for you.' Well, I sold the bonds, but I
didn't take the seven thousand roubles to the office; I went
straight to the English shop and chose a pair of earrings, with a
diamond the size of a nut in each. They cost four hundred roubles
more than I had, so I gave my name, and they trusted me. With the
earrings I went at once to Zaleshoff's. 'Come on!' I said, 'come
on to Nastasia Philipovna's,' and off we went without more ado. I
tell you I hadn't a notion of what was about me or before me or
below my feet all the way; I saw nothing whatever. We went
straight into her drawing-room, and then she came out to us.
"I didn't say right out who I was, but Zaleshoff said: 'From
Parfen Rogojin, in memory of his first meeting with you
yesterday; be so kind as to accept these!'
"She opened the parcel, looked at the earrings, and laughed.
"'Thank your friend Mr. Rogojin for his kind attention,' says
she, and bowed and went off. Why didn't I die there on the spot?
The worst of it all was, though, that the beast Zaleshoff got all
the credit of it! I was short and abominably dressed, and stood
and stared in her face and never said a word, because I was shy,
like an ass! And there was he all in the fashion, pomaded and
dressed out, with a smart tie on, bowing and scraping; and I bet
anything she took him for me all the while!
"'Look here now,' I said, when we came out, 'none of your
interference here after this-do you understand?' He laughed: 'And
how are you going to settle up with your father?' says he. I
thought I might as well jump into the Neva at once without going
home first; but it struck me that I wouldn't, after all, and I
went home feeling like one of the damned."
"My goodness!" shivered the clerk. "And his father," he added,
for the prince's instruction, "and his father would have given a
man a ticket to the other world for ten roubles any day--not to
speak of ten thousand!"
The prince observed Rogojin with great curiosity; he seemed paler
than ever at this moment.
"What do you know about it?" cried the latter. "Well, my father
learned the whole story at once, and Zaleshoff blabbed it all
over the town besides. So he took me upstairs and locked me up,
and swore at me for an hour. 'This is only a foretaste,' says he;
'wait a bit till night comes, and I'll come back and talk to you
"Well, what do you think? The old fellow went straight off to
Nastasia Philipovna, touched the floor with his forehead, and
began blubbering and beseeching her on his knees to give him back
the diamonds. So after awhile she brought the box and flew out at
him. 'There,' she says, 'take your earrings, you wretched old
miser; although they are ten times dearer than their value to me
now that I know what it must have cost Parfen to get them! Give
Parfen my compliments,' she says, 'and thank him very much!'
Well, I meanwhile had borrowed twenty-five roubles from a friend,
and off I went to Pskoff to my aunt's. The old woman there
lectured me so that I left the house and went on a drinking tour
round the public-houses of the place. I was in a high fever when
I got to Pskoff, and by nightfall I was lying delirious in the
streets somewhere or other!"
"Oho! we'll make Nastasia Philipovna sing another song now!"
giggled Lebedeff, rubbing his hands with glee. "Hey, my boy,
we'll get her some proper earrings now! We'll get her such
"Look here," cried Rogojin, seizing him fiercely by the arm,
"look here, if you so much as name Nastasia Philipovna again,
I'll tan your hide as sure as you sit there!"
"Aha! do--by all means! if you tan my hide you won't turn me away
from your society. You'll bind me to you, with your lash, for
ever. Ha, ha! here we are at the station, though."
Sure enough, the train was just steaming in as he spoke.
Though Rogojin had declared that he left Pskoff secretly, a large
collection of friends had assembled to greet him, and did so with
profuse waving of hats and shouting.
"Why, there's Zaleshoff here, too!" he muttered, gazing at the
scene with a sort of triumphant but unpleasant smile. Then he
suddenly turned to the prince: "Prince, I don't know why I have
taken a fancy to you; perhaps because I met you just when I did.
But no, it can't be that, for I met this fellow " (nodding at
Lebedeff) "too, and I have not taken a fancy to him by any means.
Come to see me, prince; we'll take off those gaiters of yours and
dress you up in a smart fur coat, the best we can buy. You shall
have a dress coat, best quality, white waistcoat, anything you
like, and your pocket shall be full of money. Come, and you shall
go with me to Nastasia Philipovna's. Now then will you come or
"Accept, accept, Prince Lef Nicolaievitch" said Lebedef solemnly;
"don't let it slip! Accept, quick!"
Prince Muishkin rose and stretched out his hand courteously,
while he replied with some cordiality:
"I will come with the greatest pleasure, and thank you very much
for taking a fancy to me. I dare say I may even come today if I
have time, for I tell you frankly that I like you very much too.
I liked you especially when you told us about the diamond
earrings; but I liked you before that as well, though you have
such a dark-clouded sort of face. Thanks very much for the offer
of clothes and a fur coat; I certainly shall require both clothes
and coat very soon. As for money, I have hardly a copeck about me
at this moment."
"You shall have lots of money; by the evening I shall have
plenty; so come along!"
"That's true enough, he'll have lots before evening!" put in
"But, look here, are you a great hand with the ladies? Let's know
that first?" asked Rogojin.
"Oh no, oh no! said the prince; "I couldn't, you know--my
illness--I hardly ever saw a soul."
"H'm! well--here, you fellow-you can come along with me now if
you like!" cried Rogojin to Lebedeff, and so they all left the
Lebedeff had his desire. He went off with the noisy group of
Rogojin's friends towards the Voznesensky, while the prince's
route lay towards the Litaynaya. It was damp and wet. The prince
asked his way of passers-by, and finding that he was a couple of
miles or so from his destination, he determined to take a
General Epanchin lived in his own house near the Litaynaya.
Besides this large residence--five-sixths of which was let in
flats and lodgings-the general was owner of another enormous
house in the Sadovaya bringing in even more rent than the first.
Besides these houses he had a delightful little estate just out
of town, and some sort of factory in another part of the city.
General Epanchin, as everyone knew, had a good deal to do with
certain government monopolies; he was also a voice, and an
important one, in many rich public companies of various
descriptions; in fact, he enjoyed the reputation of being a well-
to-do man of busy habits, many ties, and affluent means. He had
made himself indispensable in several quarters, amongst others in
his department of the government; and yet it was a known fact
that Fedor Ivanovitch Epanchin was a man of no education
whatever, and had absolutely risen from the ranks.
This last fact could, of course, reflect nothing but credit upon
the general; and yet, though unquestionably a sagacious man, he
had his own little weaknesses-very excusable ones,--one of which
was a dislike to any allusion to the above circumstance. He was
undoubtedly clever. For instance, he made a point of never
asserting himself when he would gain more by keeping in the
background; and in consequence many exalted personages valued him
principally for his humility and simplicity, and because "he knew
his place." And yet if these good people could only have had a
peep into the mind of this excellent fellow who "knew his place"
so well! The fact is that, in spite of his knowledge of the world
and his really remarkable abilities, he always liked to appear to
be carrying out other people's ideas rather than his own. And
also, his luck seldom failed him, even at cards, for which he had
a passion that he did not attempt to conceal. He played for high
stakes, and moved, altogether, in very varied society.
As to age, General Epanchin was in the very prime of life; that
is, about fifty-five years of age,--the flowering time of
existence, when real enjoyment of life begins. His healthy
appearance, good colour, sound, though discoloured teeth, sturdy
figure, preoccupied air during business hours, and jolly good
humour during his game at cards in the evening, all bore witness
to his success in life, and combined to make existence a bed of
roses to his excellency. The general was lord of a flourishing
family, consisting of his wife and three grown-up daughters. He
had married young, while still a lieutenant, his wife being a
girl of about his own age, who possessed neither beauty nor
education, and who brought him no more than fifty souls of landed
property, which little estate served, however, as a nest-egg for
far more important accumulations. The general never regretted his
early marriage, or regarded it as a foolish youthful escapade;
and he so respected and feared his wife that he was very near
loving her. Mrs. Epanchin came of the princely stock of Muishkin,
which if not a brilliant, was, at all events, a decidedly ancient
family; and she was extremely proud of her descent.
With a few exceptions, the worthy couple had lived through their
long union very happily. While still young the wife had been able
to make important friends among the aristocracy, partly by virtue
of her family descent, and partly by her own exertions; while, in
after life, thanks to their wealth and to the position of her
husband in the service, she took her place among the higher
circles as by right.
During these last few years all three of the general's daughters-
Alexandra, Adelaida, and Aglaya--had grown up and matured. Of
course they were only Epanchins, but their mother's family was
noble; they might expect considerable fortunes; their father had
hopes of attaining to very high rank indeed in his country's
service-all of which was satisfactory. All three of the girls
were decidedly pretty, even the eldest, Alexandra, who was just
twenty-five years old. The middle daughter was now twenty-three,
while the youngest, Aglaya, was twenty. This youngest girl was
absolutely a beauty, and had begun of late to attract
considerable attention in society. But this was not all, for every
one of the three was clever, well educated, and accomplished.
It was a matter of general knowledge that the three girls were
very fond of one another, and supported each other in every way;
it was even said that the two elder ones had made certain
sacrifices for the sake of the idol of the household, Aglaya. In
society they not only disliked asserting themselves, but were
actually retiring. Certainly no one could blame them for being
too arrogant or haughty, and yet everybody was well aware that
they were proud and quite understood their own value. The eldest
was musical, while the second was a clever artist, which fact she
had concealed until lately. In a word, the world spoke well of
the girls; but they were not without their enemies, and
occasionally people talked with horror of the number of books
they had read.
They were in no hurry to marry. They liked good society, but were
not too keen about it. All this was the more remarkable, because
everyone was well aware of the hopes and aims of their parents.
It was about eleven o'clock in the forenoon when the prince rang
the bell at General Epanchin's door. The general lived on the
first floor or flat of the house, as modest a lodging as his
position permitted. A liveried servant opened the door, and the
prince was obliged to enter into long explanations with this
gentleman, who, from the first glance, looked at him and his
bundle with grave suspicion. At last, however, on the repeated
positive assurance that he really was Prince Muishkin, and must
absolutely see the general on business, the bewildered domestic
showed him into a little ante-chamber leading to a waiting-room
that adjoined the general's study, there handing him over to
another servant, whose duty it was to be in this ante-chamber
all the morning, and announce visitors to the general. This
second individual wore a dress coat, and was some forty years of
age; he was the general's special study servant, and well aware
of his own importance.
"Wait in the next room, please; and leave your bundle here," said
the door-keeper, as he sat down comfortably in his own easy-chair
in the ante-chamber. He looked at the prince in severe surprise
as the latter settled himself in another chair alongside, with
his bundle on his knees.
"If you don't mind, I would rather sit here with you," said the
prince; "I should prefer it to sitting in there."
"Oh, but you can't stay here. You are a visitor--a guest, so to
speak. Is it the general himself you wish to see?"
The man evidently could not take in the idea of such a shabby-
looking visitor, and had decided to ask once more.
"Yes--I have business--" began the prince.
"I do not ask you what your business may be, all I have to do is
to announce you; and unless the secretary comes in here I cannot
The man's suspicions seemed to increase more and more. The prince
was too unlike the usual run of daily visitors; and although the
general certainly did receive, on business, all sorts and
conditions of men, yet in spite of this fact the servant felt
great doubts on the subject of this particular visitor. The
presence of the secretary as an intermediary was, he judged,
essential in this case.
"Surely you--are from abroad?" he inquired at last, in a confused
sort of way. He had begun his sentence intending to say, "Surely
you are not Prince Muishkin, are you?"
"Yes, straight from the train! Did not you intend to say, 'Surely
you are not Prince Muishkin?' just now, but refrained out of
"H'm!" grunted the astonished servant.
"I assure you I am not deceiving you; you shall not have to
answer for me. As to my being dressed like this, and carrying a
bundle, there's nothing surprising in that--the fact is, my
circumstances are not particularly rosy at this moment."
"H'm!--no, I'm not afraid of that, you see; I have to announce
you, that's all. The secretary will be out directly-that is,
unless you--yes, that's the rub--unless you--come, you must allow
me to ask you--you've not come to beg, have you?"
"Oh dear no, you can be perfectly easy on that score. I have
quite another matter on hand."
"You must excuse my asking, you know. Your appearance led me to
think--but just wait for the secretary; the general is busy now,
but the secretary is sure to come out."
"Oh--well, look here, if I have some time to wait, would you mind
telling me, is there any place about where I could have a smoke?
I have my pipe and tobacco with me."
"SMOKE?" said the man, in shocked but disdainful surprise,
blinking his eyes at the prince as though he could not believe
his senses." No, sir, you cannot smoke here, and I wonder you
are not ashamed of the very suggestion. Ha, ha! a cool idea that,
"Oh, I didn't mean in this room! I know I can't smoke here, of
course. I'd adjourn to some other room, wherever you like to show
me to. You see, I'm used to smoking a good deal, and now I
haven't had a puff for three hours; however, just as you like."
"Now how on earth am I to announce a man like that?" muttered the
servant. "In the first place, you've no right in here at all; you
ought to be in the waiting-room, because you're a sort of
visitor--a guest, in fact--and I shall catch it for this. Look
here, do you intend to take up you abode with us?" he added,
glancing once more at the prince's bundle, which evidently gave
him no peace.
"No, I don't think so. I don't think I should stay even if they
were to invite me. I've simply come to make their acquaintance,
and nothing more."
"Make their acquaintance?" asked the man, in amazement, and with
redoubled suspicion. "Then why did you say you had business with
"Oh well, very little business. There is one little matter--some
advice I am going to ask him for; but my principal object is
simply to introduce myself, because I am Prince Muishkin, and
Madame Epanchin is the last of her branch of the house, and
besides herself and me there are no other Muishkins left."
"What--you're a relation then, are you?" asked the servant, so
bewildered that he began to feel quite alarmed.
"Well, hardly so. If you stretch a point, we are relations, of
course, but so distant that one cannot really take cognizance of
it. I once wrote to your mistress from abroad, but she did not
reply. However, I have thought it right to make acquaintance with
her on my arrival. I am telling you all this in order to ease
your mind, for I see you are still far from comfortable on my
account. All you have to do is to announce me as Prince Muishkin,
and the object of my visit will be plain enough. If I am
received--very good; if not, well, very good again. But they are
sure to receive me, I should think; Madame Epanchin will
naturally be curious to see the only remaining representative of
her family. She values her Muishkin descent very highly, if I am
The prince's conversation was artless and confiding to a degree,
and the servant could not help feeling that as from visitor to
common serving-man this state of things was highly improper. His
conclusion was that one of two things must be the explanation--
either that this was a begging impostor, or that the prince, if
prince he were, was simply a fool, without the slightest
ambition; for a sensible prince with any ambition would certainly
not wait about in ante-rooms with servants, and talk of his own
private affairs like this. In either case, how was he to announce
this singular visitor?
"I really think I must request you to step into the next room!"
he said, with all the insistence he could muster.
"Why? If I had been sitting there now, I should not have had the
opportunity of making these personal explanations. I see you are
still uneasy about me and keep eyeing my cloak and bundle. Don't
you think you might go in yourself now, without waiting for the
secretary to come out?"
"No, no! I can't announce a visitor like yourself without the
secretary. Besides the general said he was not to be disturbed--
he is with the Colonel C--. Gavrila Ardalionovitch goes in
"Who may that be? a clerk?"
"What? Gavrila Ardalionovitch? Oh no; he belongs to one of the
companies. Look here, at all events put your bundle down, here."
"Yes, I will if I may; and--can I take off my cloak"
"Of course; you can't go in THERE with it on, anyhow."
The prince rose and took off his mantle, revealing a neat enough
morning costume--a little worn, but well made. He wore a steel
watch chain and from this chain there hung a silver Geneva watch.
Fool the prince might be, still, the general's servant felt that
it was not correct for him to continue to converse thus with a
visitor, in spite of the fact that the prince pleased him
"And what time of day does the lady receive?" the latter asked,
reseating himself in his old place.
"Oh, that's not in my province! I believe she receives at any
time; it depends upon the visitors. The dressmaker goes in at
eleven. Gavrila Ardalionovitch is allowed much earlier than other
people, too; he is even admitted to early lunch now and then."
"It is much warmer in the rooms here than it is abroad at this
season," observed the prince; " but it is much warmer there out
of doors. As for the houses--a Russian can't live in them in the
winter until he gets accustomed to them."
"Don't they heat them at all?"
"Well, they do heat them a little; but the houses and stoves are
so different to ours."
"H'm! were you long away?"
"Four years! and I was in the same place nearly all the time,--in
"You must have forgotten Russia, hadn't you?"
"Yes, indeed I had--a good deal; and, would you believe it, I
often wonder at myself for not having forgotten how to speak
Russian? Even now, as I talk to you, I keep saying to myself 'how
well I am speaking it.' Perhaps that is partly why I am so
talkative this morning. I assure you, ever since yesterday
evening I have had the strongest desire to go on and on talking
"H'm! yes; did you live in Petersburg in former years?"
This good flunkey, in spite of his conscientious scruples, really
could not resist continuing such a very genteel and agreeable
"In Petersburg? Oh no! hardly at all, and now they say so much
is changed in the place that even those who did know it well are
obliged to relearn what they knew. They talk a good deal about
the new law courts, and changes there, don't they?"
"H'm! yes, that's true enough. Well now, how is the law over
there, do they administer it more justly than here?"
"Oh, I don't know about that! I've heard much that is good about
our legal administration, too. There is no capital punishment
here for one thing."
"Is there over there?"
"Yes--I saw an execution in France--at Lyons. Schneider took me
over with him to see it."
"What, did they hang the fellow?"
"No, they cut off people's heads in France."
"What did the fellow do?--yell?"
"Oh no--it's the work of an instant. They put a man inside a
frame and a sort of broad knife falls by machinery -they call the
thing a guillotine-it falls with fearful force and weight-the
head springs off so quickly that you can't wink your eye in
between. But all the preparations are so dreadful. When they
announce the sentence, you know, and prepare the criminal and tie
his hands, and cart him off to the scaffold--that's the fearful
part of the business. The people all crowd round--even women-
though they don't at all approve of women looking on."
"No, it's not a thing for women."
"Of course not--of course not!--bah! The criminal was a fine
intelligent fearless man; Le Gros was his name; and I may tell
you--believe it or not, as you like--that when that man stepped
upon the scaffold he CRIED, he did indeed,--he was as white as a
bit of paper. Isn't it a dreadful idea that he should have cried
--cried! Whoever heard of a grown man crying from fear--not a
child, but a man who never had cried before--a grown man of
forty-five years. Imagine what must have been going on in that
man's mind at such a moment; what dreadful convulsions his whole
spirit must have endured; it is an outrage on the soul that's
what it is. Because it is said 'thou shalt not kill,' is he to be
killed because he murdered some one else? No, it is not right,
it's an impossible theory. I assure you, I saw the sight a month
ago and it's dancing before my eyes to this moment. I dream of
The prince had grown animated as he spoke, and a tinge of colour
suffused his pale face, though his way of talking was as quiet as
ever. The servant followed his words with sympathetic interest.
Clearly he was not at all anxious to bring the conversation to an
end. Who knows? Perhaps he too was a man of imagination and with
some capacity for thought.
"Well, at all events it is a good thing that there's no pain when
the poor fellow's head flies off," he remarked.
"Do you know, though," cried the prince warmly, "you made that
remark now, and everyone says the same thing, and the machine is
designed with the purpose of avoiding pain, this guillotine I
mean; but a thought came into my head then: what if it be a bad
plan after all? You may laugh at my idea, perhaps--but I could
not help its occurring to me all the same. Now with the rack and
tortures and so on--you suffer terrible pain of course; but then
your torture is bodily pain only (although no doubt you have
plenty of that) until you die. But HERE I should imagine the most
terrible part of the whole punishment is, not the bodily pain at
all--but the certain knowledge that in an hour,--then in ten
minutes, then in half a minute, then now--this very INSTANT--your
soul must quit your body and that you will no longer be a man--
and that this is certain, CERTAIN! That's the point--the
certainty of it. Just that instant when you place your head on
the block and hear the iron grate over your head--then--that
quarter of a second is the most awful of all.
"This is not my own fantastical opinion--many people have thought
the same; but I feel it so deeply that I'll tell you what I
think. I believe that to execute a man for murder is to punish
him immeasurably more dreadfully than is equivalent to his crime.
A murder by sentence is far more dreadful than a murder committed
by a criminal. The man who is attacked by robbers at night, in a
dark wood, or anywhere, undoubtedly hopes and hopes that he may
yet escape until the very moment of his death. There are plenty
of instances of a man running away, or imploring for mercy--at
all events hoping on in some degree--even after his throat was
cut. But in the case of an execution, that last hope--having
which it is so immeasurably less dreadful to die,--is taken away
from the wretch and CERTAINTY substituted in its place! There is
his sentence, and with it that terrible certainty that he cannot
possibly escape death--which, I consider, must be the most
dreadful anguish in the world. You may place a soldier before a
cannon's mouth in battle, and fire upon him--and he will still
hope. But read to that same soldier his death-sentence, and he
will either go mad or burst into tears. Who dares to say that any
man can suffer this without going mad? No, no! it is an abuse, a
shame, it is unnecessary--why should such a thing exist?
Doubtless there may be men who have been sentenced, who have
suffered this mental anguish for a while and then have been
reprieved; perhaps such men may have been able to relate their
feelings afterwards. Our Lord Christ spoke of this anguish and
dread. No! no! no! No man should be treated so, no man, no man!"
The servant, though of course he could not have expressed all
this as the prince did, still clearly entered into it and was
greatly conciliated, as was evident from the increased amiability
of his expression. "If you are really very anxious for a smoke,"
he remarked, "I think it might possibly be managed, if you are
very quick about it. You see they might come out and inquire for
you, and you wouldn't be on the spot. You see that door there? Go
in there and you'll find a little room on the right; you can
smoke there, only open the window, because I ought not to allow
it really, and--." But there was no time, after all.
A young fellow entered the ante-room at this moment, with a
bundle of papers in his hand. The footman hastened to help him
take off his overcoat. The new arrival glanced at the prince out
of the corners of his eyes.
"This gentleman declares, Gavrila Ardalionovitch," began the man,
confidentially and almost familiarly, "that he is Prince Muishkin
and a relative of Madame Epanchin's. He has just arrived from
abroad, with nothing but a bundle by way of luggage--."
The prince did not hear the rest, because at this point the
servant continued his communication in a whisper.
Gavrila Ardalionovitch listened attentively, and gazed at the
prince with great curiosity. At last he motioned the man aside
and stepped hurriedly towards the prince.
"Are you Prince Muishkin?" he asked, with the greatest courtesy
He was a remarkably handsome young fellow of some twenty-eight
summers, fair and of middle height; he wore a small beard, and
his face was most intelligent. Yet his smile, in spite of its
sweetness, was a little thin, if I may so call it, and showed his
teeth too evenly; his gaze though decidedly good-humoured and
ingenuous, was a trifle too inquisitive and intent to be
"Probably when he is alone he looks quite different, and hardly
smiles at all!" thought the prince.
He explained about himself in a few words, very much the same as
he had told the footman and Rogojin beforehand.
Gavrila Ardalionovitch meanwhile seemed to be trying to recall
"Was it not you, then, who sent a letter a year or less ago--from
Switzerland, I think it was--to Elizabetha Prokofievna (Mrs.
"Oh, then, of course they will remember who you are. You wish to
see the general? I'll tell him at once--he will be free in a
minute; but you--you had better wait in the ante-chamber,--hadn't
you? Why is he here?" he added, severely, to the man.
"I tell you, sir, he wished it himself!"
At this moment the study door opened, and a military man, with a
portfolio under his arm, came out talking loudly, and after
bidding good-bye to someone inside, took his departure.
"You there, Gania? cried a voice from the study, "come in here,
Gavrila Ardalionovitch nodded to the prince and entered the room
A couple of minutes later the door opened again and the affable
voice of Gania cried:
"Come in please, prince!"
General Ivan Fedorovitch Epanchin was standing In the middle of
the room, and gazed with great curiosity at the prince as he
entered. He even advanced a couple of steps to meet him.
The prince came forward and introduced himself.
"Quite so," replied the general, "and what can I do for you?"
"Oh, I have no special business; my principal object was to make
your acquaintance. I should not like to disturb you. I do not
know your times and arrangements here, you see, but I have only
just arrived. I came straight from the station. I am come direct
The general very nearly smiled, but thought better of it and kept
his smile back. Then he reflected, blinked his eyes, stared at his guest
once more from head to foot; then abruptly motioned him to a
chair, sat down himself, and waited with some impatience for the
prince to speak.
Gania stood at his table in the far corner of the room, turning
"I have not much time for making acquaintances, as a rule," said
the general, "but as, of course, you have your object in coming,
"I felt sure you would think I had some object in view when I
resolved to pay you this visit," the prince interrupted; "but I
give you my word, beyond the pleasure of making your acquaintance
I had no personal object whatever."
"The pleasure is, of course, mutual; but life is not all
pleasure, as you are aware. There is such a thing as business,
and I really do not see what possible reason there can be, or
what we have in common to--"
"Oh, there is no reason, of course, and I suppose there is
nothing in common between us, or very little; for if I am Prince
Muishkin, and your wife happens to be a member of my house, that
can hardly be called a 'reason.' I quite understand that. And yet
that was my whole motive for coming. You see I have not been in
Russia for four years, and knew very little about anything when I
left. I had been very ill for a long time, and I feel now the
need of a few good friends. In fact, I have a certain question
upon which I much need advice, and do not know whom to go to for
it. I thought of your family when I was passing through Berlin.
'They are almost relations,' I said to myself,' so I'll begin
with them; perhaps we may get on with each other, I with them and
they with me, if they are kind people;' and I have heard that you
are very kind people!"
"Oh, thank you, thank you, I'm sure," replied the general,
considerably taken aback. "May I ask where you have taken up your
"Nowhere, as yet."
"What, straight from the station to my house? And how about your
"I only had a small bundle, containing linen, with me, nothing
more. I can carry it in my hand, easily. There will be plenty of
time to take a room in some hotel by the evening."
"Oh, then you DO intend to take a room?"
"To judge from your words, you came straight to my house with the
intention of staying there."
"That could only have been on your invitation. I confess,
however, that I should not have stayed here even if you had
invited me, not for any particular reason, but because it is--
well, contrary to my practice and nature, somehow."
"Oh, indeed! Then it is perhaps as well that I neither DID invite
you, nor DO invite you now. Excuse me, prince, but we had better
make this matter clear, once for all. We have just agreed that
with regard to our relationship there is not much to be said,
though, of course, it would have been very delightful to us to
feel that such relationship did actually exist; therefore,
"Therefore, perhaps I had better get up and go away?" said the
prince, laughing merrily as he rose from his place; just as
merrily as though the circumstances were by no means strained or
difficult. "And I give you my word, general, that though I know
nothing whatever of manners and customs of society, and how
people live and all that, yet I felt quite sure that this visit
of mine would end exactly as it has ended now. Oh, well, I
suppose it's all right; especially as my letter was not answered.
Well, good-bye, and forgive me for having disturbed you!"
The prince's expression was so good-natured at this moment, and
so entirely free from even a suspicion of unpleasant feeling was
the smile with which he looked at the general as he spoke, that
the latter suddenly paused, and appeared to gaze at his guest
from quite a new point of view, all in an instant.
"Do you know, prince," he said, in quite a different tone, "I do
not know you at all, yet, and after all, Elizabetha Prokofievna
would very likely be pleased to have a peep at a man of her own
name. Wait a little, if you don't mind, and if you have time to
"Oh, I assure you I've lots of time, my time is entirely my own!"
And the prince immediately replaced his soft, round hat on the
table. "I confess, I thought Elizabetha Prokofievna would very
likely remember that I had written her a letter. Just now your
servant--outside there--was dreadfully suspicious that I had come
to beg of you. I noticed that! Probably he has very strict
instructions on that score; but I assure you I did not come to
beg. I came to make some friends. But I am rather bothered at
having disturbed you; that's all I care about.--"
"Look here, prince," said the general, with a cordial smile, "if
you really are the sort of man you appear to be, it may be a
source of great pleasure to us to make your better acquaintance;
but, you see, I am a very busy man, and have to be perpetually
sitting here and signing papers, or off to see his excellency, or
to my department, or somewhere; so that though I should be glad
to see more of people, nice people--you see, I--however, I am
sure you are so well brought up that you will see at once, and--
but how old are you, prince?"
"No? I thought you very much younger."
"Yes, they say I have a 'young' face. As to disturbing you I
shall soon learn to avoid doing that, for I hate disturbing
people. Besides, you and I are so differently constituted, I
should think, that there must be very little in common between
us. Not that I will ever believe there is NOTHING in common
between any two people, as some declare is the case. I am sure
people make a great mistake in sorting each other into groups, by
appearances; but I am boring you, I see, you--"
"Just two words: have you any means at all? Or perhaps you may be
intending to undertake some sort of employment? Excuse my
questioning you, but--"
"Oh, my dear sir, I esteem and understand your kindness in
putting the question. No; at present I have no means whatever,
and no employment either, but I hope to find some. I was living
on other people abroad. Schneider, the professor who treated me
and taught me, too, in Switzerland, gave me just enough money for
my journey, so that now I have but a few copecks left. There
certainly is one question upon which I am anxious to have advice,
"Tell me, how do you intend to live now, and what are your
plans?" interrupted the general.
"I wish to work, somehow or other."
"Oh yes, but then, you see, you are a philosopher. Have you any
talents, or ability in any direction--that is, any that would
bring in money and bread? Excuse me again--"
"Oh, don't apologize. No, I don't think I have either talents or
special abilities of any kind; on the contrary. I have always
been an invalid and unable to learn much. As for bread, I should
The general interrupted once more with questions; while the
prince again replied with the narrative we have heard before. It
appeared that the general had known Pavlicheff; but why the
latter had taken an interest in the prince, that young gentleman
could not explain; probably by virtue of the old friendship with
his father, he thought.
The prince had been left an orphan when quite a little child, and
Pavlicheff had entrusted him to an old lady, a relative of his
own, living in the country, the child needing the fresh air and
exercise of country life. He was educated, first by a governess,
and afterwards by a tutor, but could not remember much about this
time of his life. His fits were so frequent then, that they made
almost an idiot of him (the prince used the expression "idiot"
himself). Pavlicheff had met Professor Schneider in Berlin, and
the latter had persuaded him to send the boy to Switzerland, to
Schneider's establishment there, for the cure of his epilepsy,
and, five years before this time, the prince was sent off. But
Pavlicheff had died two or three years since, and Schneider had
himself supported the young fellow, from that day to this, at his
own expense. Although he had not quite cured him, he had greatly
improved his condition; and now, at last, at the prince's own
desire, and because of a certain matter which came to the ears of
the latter, Schneider had despatched the young man to Russia.
The general was much astonished.
"Then you have no one, absolutely NO one in Russia?" he asked.
"No one, at present; but I hope to make friends; and then I have
a letter from--"
"At all events," put in the general, not listening to the news
about the letter, "at all events, you must have learned
SOMETHING, and your malady would not prevent your undertaking
some easy work, in one of the departments, for instance?
"Oh dear no, oh no! As for a situation, I should much like to
find one for I am anxious to discover what I really am fit for. I
have learned a good deal in the last four years, and, besides, I
read a great many Russian books."
"Russian books, indeed ? Then, of course, you can read and write
"Oh dear, yes!"
"Capital! And your handwriting?"
"Ah, there I am REALLY talented! I may say l am a real
caligraphist. Let me write you something, just to show you," said
the prince, with some excitement.
"With pleasure! In fact, it is very necessary. I like your
readiness, prince; in fact, I must say--I-I-like you very well,
altogether," said the general.
"What delightful writing materials you have here, such a lot of
pencils and things, and what beautiful paper! It's a charming
room altogether. I know that picture, it's a Swiss view. I'm sure
the artist painted it from nature, and that I have seen the very
"Quite likely, though I bought it here. Gania, give the prince
some paper. Here are pens and paper; now then, take this table.
What's this?" the general continued to Gania, who had that moment
taken a large photograph out of his portfolio, and shown it to
his senior. "Halloa! Nastasia Philipovna! Did she send it you
herself? Herself?" he inquired, with much curiosity and great
"She gave it me just now, when I called in to congratulate her. I
asked her for it long ago. I don't know whether she meant it for
a hint that I had come empty-handed, without a present for her
birthday, or what," added Gania, with an unpleasant smile.
"Oh, nonsense, nonsense," said the general, with decision. " What
extraordinary ideas you have, Gania! As if she would hint; that's
not her way at all. Besides, what could you give her, without
having thousands at your disposal? You might have given her your
portrait, however. Has she ever asked you for it?"
"No, not yet. Very likely she never will. I suppose you haven't
forgotten about tonight, have you, Ivan Fedorovitch? You were
one of those specially invited, you know."
"Oh no, I remember all right, and I shall go, of course. I should
think so! She's twenty-five years old today! And, you know,
Gania, you must be ready for great things; she has promised both
myself and Afanasy Ivanovitch that she will give a decided answer
tonight, yes or no. So be prepared!"
Gania suddenly became so ill at ease that his face grew paler
"Are you sure she said that?" he asked, and his voice seemed to
quiver as he spoke.
"Yes, she promised. We both worried her so that she gave in; but
she wished us to tell you nothing about it until the day. "
The general watched Gania's confusion intently, and clearly did
not like it.
"Remember, Ivan Fedorovitch," said Gania, in great agitation,
"that I was to be free too, until her decision; and that even
then I was to have my 'yes or no' free."
"Why, don't you, aren't you--" began the general, in alarm.
"Oh, don't misunderstand--"
"But, my dear fellow, what are you doing, what do you mean?"
"Oh, I'm not rejecting her. I may have expressed myself badly,
but I didn't mean that."
"Reject her! I should think not!" said the general with
annoyance, and apparently not in the least anxious to conceal it.
"Why, my dear fellow, it's not a question of your rejecting her,
it is whether you are prepared to receive her consent joyfully,
and with proper satisfaction. How are things going on at home?"
"At home? Oh, I can do as I like there, of course; only my father
will make a fool of himself, as usual. He is rapidly becoming a
general nuisance. I don't ever talk to him now, but I hold him in
cheek, safe enough. I swear if it had not been for my mother, I
should have shown him the way out, long ago. My mother is always
crying, of course, and my sister sulks. I had to tell them at
last that I intended to be master of my own destiny, and that I
expect to be obeyed at home. At least, I gave my sister to
understand as much, and my mother was present."
"Well, I must say, I cannot understand it!" said the general,
shrugging his shoulders and dropping his hands. "You remember
your mother, Nina Alexandrovna, that day she came and sat here
and groaned-and when I asked her what was the matter, she says,
'Oh, it's such a DISHONOUR to us!' dishonour! Stuff and nonsense!
I should like to know who can reproach Nastasia Philipovna, or
who can say a word of any kind against her. Did she mean because
Nastasia had been living with Totski? What nonsense it is! You
would not let her come near your daughters, says Nina
Alexandrovna. What next, I wonder? I don't see how she can fail
"Her own position?" prompted Gania. "She does understand. Don't
be annoyed with her. I have warned her not to meddle in other
people's affairs. However, although there's comparative peace at
home at present, the storm will break if anything is finally
The prince heard the whole of the foregoing conversation, as he
sat at the table, writing. He finished at last, and brought the
result of his labour to the general's desk.
"So this is Nastasia Philipovna," he said, looking attentively
and curiously at the portrait. "How wonderfully beautiful!" he
immediately added, with warmth. The picture was certainly that of
an unusually lovely woman. She was photographed in a black silk
dress of simple design, her hair was evidently dark and plainly
arranged, her eyes were deep and thoughtful, the expression of
her face passionate, but proud. She was rather thin, perhaps, and
a little pale. Both Gania and the general gazed at the prince in
"How do you know it's Nastasia Philipovna?" asked the general;
"you surely don't know her already, do you? "
"Yes, I do! I have only been one day in Russia, but I have heard
of the great beauty!" And the prince proceeded to narrate his
meeting with Rogojin in the train and the whole of the latter's
"There's news!" said the general in some excitement, after
listening to the story with engrossed attention.
"Oh, of course it's nothing but humbug!" cried Gania, a little
disturbed, however. "It's all humbug; the young merchant was
pleased to indulge in a little innocent recreation! I have heard
something of Rogojin!"
"Yes, so have I!" replied the general. "Nastasia Philipovna told
us all about the earrings that very day. But now it is quite a
different matter. You see the fellow really has a million of
roubles, and he is passionately in love. The whole story smells
of passion, and we all know what this class of gentry is capable
of when infatuated. I am much afraid of some disagreeable
scandal, I am indeed!"
"You are afraid of the million, I suppose," said Gania, grinning
and showing his teeth.
"And you are NOT, I presume, eh?"
"How did he strike you, prince?" asked Gania, suddenly. "Did he
seem to be a serious sort of a man, or just a common rowdy
fellow? What was your own opinion about the matter?"
While Gania put this question, a new idea suddenly flashed into
his brain, and blazed out, impatiently, in his eyes. The general,
who was really agitated and disturbed, looked at the prince too,
but did not seem to expect much from his reply.
"I really don't quite know how to tell you," replied the prince,
"but it certainly did seem to me that the man was full of
passion, and not, perhaps, quite healthy passion. He seemed to be
still far from well. Very likely he will be in bed again in a day
or two, especially if he lives fast."
"No! do you think so?" said the general, catching at the idea.
"Yes, I do think so!"
"Yes, but the sort of scandal I referred to may happen at any
moment. It may be this very evening," remarked Gania to the
general, with a smile.
"Of course; quite so. In that case it all depends upon what is
going on in her brain at this moment."
"You know the kind of person she is at times."
"How? What kind of person is she?" cried the general, arrived at
the limits of his patience. Look here, Gania, don't you go
annoying her tonight What you are to do is to be as agreeable
towards her as ever you can. Well, what are you smiling at? You
must understand, Gania, that I have no interest whatever in
speaking like this. Whichever way the question is settled, it
will be to my advantage. Nothing will move Totski from his
resolution, so I run no risk. If there is anything I desire, you
must know that it is your benefit only. Can't you trust me? You
are a sensible fellow, and I have been counting on you; for, in
this matter, that, that--"
"Yes, that's the chief thing," said Gania, helping the general
out of his difficulties again, and curling his lips in an
envenomed smile, which he did not attempt to conceal. He gazed
with his fevered eyes straight into those of the general, as
though he were anxious that the latter might read his thoughts.
The general grew purple with anger.
"Yes, of course it is the chief thing!" he cried, looking sharply
at Gania. "What a very curious man you are, Gania! You actually
seem to be GLAD to hear of this millionaire fellow's arrival-
just as though you wished for an excuse to get out of the whole
thing. This is an affair in which you ought to act honestly
with both sides, and give due warning, to avoid compromising
others. But, even now, there is still time. Do you understand me?
I wish to know whether you desire this arrangement or whether you
do not? If not, say so,--and-and welcome! No one is trying to
force you into the snare, Gavrila Ardalionovitch, if you see
a snare in the matter, at least."
"I do desire it," murmured Gania, softly but firmly, lowering his
eyes; and he relapsed into gloomy silence.
The general was satisfied. He had excited himself, and was
evidently now regretting that he had gone so far. He turned to
the prince, and suddenly the disagreeable thought of the latter's
presence struck him, and the certainty that he must have heard
every word of the conversation. But he felt at ease in another
moment; it only needed one glance at the prince to see that in
that quarter there was nothing to fear.
"Oh!" cried the general, catching sight of the prince's specimen
of caligraphy, which the latter had now handed him for
inspection. "Why, this is simply beautiful; look at that, Gania,
there's real talent there!"
On a sheet of thick writing-paper the prince had written in
medieval characters the legend:
"The gentle Abbot Pafnute signed this."
"There," explained the prince, with great delight and animation,
"there, that's the abbot's real signature--from a manuscript of
the fourteenth century. All these old abbots and bishops used to
write most beautifully, with such taste and so much care and
diligence. Have you no copy of Pogodin, general? If you had one I
could show you another type. Stop a bit--here you have the large
round writing common in France during the eighteenth century.
Some of the letters are shaped quite differently from those now
in use. It was the writing current then, and employed by public
writers generally. I copied this from one of them, and you can
see how good it is. Look at the well-rounded a and d. I have
tried to translate the French character into the Russian letters-
-a difficult thing to do, but I think I have succeeded fairly.
Here is a fine sentence, written in a good, original hand--'Zeal
triumphs over all.' That is the script of the Russian War Office.
That is how official documents addressed to important personages
should be written. The letters are round, the type black, and the
style somewhat remarkable. A stylist would not allow these
ornaments, or attempts at flourishes--just look at these
unfinished tails!--but it has distinction and really depicts the
soul of the writer. He would like to give play to his
imagination, and follow the inspiration of his genius, but a
soldier is only at ease in the guard-room, and the pen stops
half-way, a slave to discipline. How delightful! The first time
I met an example of this handwriting, I was positively
astonished, and where do you think I chanced to find it? In
Switzerland, of all places! Now that is an ordinary English hand.
It can hardly be improved, it is so refined and exquisite--almost
perfection. This is an example of another kind, a mixture of
styles. The copy was given me by a French commercial traveller.
It is founded on the English, but the downstrokes are a little
blacker, and more marked. Notice that the oval has some slight
modification--it is more rounded. This writing allows for
flourishes; now a flourish is a dangerous thing! Its use requires
such taste, but, if successful, what a distinction it gives to
the whole! It results in an incomparable type--one to fall in love
"Dear me! How you have gone into all the refinements and details
of the question! Why, my dear fellow, you are not a caligraphist,
you are an artist! Eh, Gania ?"
"Wonderful!" said Gania. "And he knows it too," he added, with a
"You may smile,--but there's a career in this," said the general.
"You don't know what a great personage I shall show this to,
prince. Why, you can command a situation at thirty-five roubles
per month to start with. However, it's half-past twelve," he
concluded, looking at his watch; "so to business, prince, for I
must be setting to work and shall not see you again today. Sit
down a minute. I have told you that I cannot receive you myself
very often, but I should like to be of some assistance to you,
some small assistance, of a kind that would give you
satisfaction. I shall find you a place in one of the State
departments, an easy place--but you will require to be accurate.
Now, as to your plans--in the house, or rather in the family of
Gania here--my young friend, whom I hope you will know better--his
mother and sister have prepared two or three rooms for lodgers,
and let them to highly recommended young fellows, with board and
attendance. I am sure Nina Alexandrovna will take you in on my
recommendation. There you will be comfortable and well taken care
of; for I do not think, prince, that you are the sort of man to
be left to the mercy of Fate in a town like Petersburg. Nina
Alexandrovna, Gania's mother, and Varvara Alexandrovna, are
ladies for whom I have the highest possible esteem and respect.
Nina Alexandrovna is the wife of General Ardalion Alexandrovitch,
my old brother in arms, with whom, I regret to say, on account of
certain circumstances, I am no longer acquainted. I give you all
this information, prince, in order to make it clear to you that I
am personally recommending you to this family, and that in so
doing, I am more or less taking upon myself to answer for you.
The terms are most reasonable, and I trust that your salary will
very shortly prove amply sufficient for your expenditure. Of
course pocket-money is a necessity, if only a little; do not be
angry, prince, if I strongly recommend you to avoid carrying
money in your pocket. But as your purse is quite empty at the
present moment, you must allow me to press these twenty-five
roubles upon your acceptance, as something to begin with. Of
course we will settle this little matter another time, and if you
are the upright, honest man you look, I anticipate very little
trouble between us on that score. Taking so much interest in you
as you may perceive I do, I am not without my object, and you
shall know it in good time. You see, I am perfectly candid with
you. I hope, Gania, you have nothing to say against the prince's
taking up his abode in your house?"
"Oh, on the contrary! my mother will be very glad," said Gania,
courteously and kindly.
"I think only one of your rooms is engaged as yet, is it not?
That fellow Ferd-Ferd--"
"Yes--I don't like that Ferdishenko. I can't understand why
Nastasia Philipovna encourages him so. Is he really her cousin,
as he says?"
"Oh dear no, it's all a joke. No more cousin than I am."
"Well, what do you think of the arrangement, prince?"
"Thank you, general; you have behaved very kindly to me; all the
more so since I did not ask you to help me. I don't say that out
of pride. I certainly did not know where to lay my head tonight.
Rogojin asked me to come to his house, of course, but--"
"Rogojin? No, no, my good fellow. I should strongly recommend
you, paternally,--or, if you prefer it, as a friend,--to forget
all about Rogojin, and, in fact, to stick to the family into
which you are about to enter."
"Thank you," began the prince; "and since you are so very kind
there is just one matter which I--"
"You must really excuse me," interrupted the general, "but I
positively haven't another moment now. I shall just tell
Elizabetha Prokofievna about you, and if she wishes to receive
you at once--as I shall advise her--I strongly recommend you to
ingratiate yourself with her at the first opportunity, for my
wife may be of the greatest service to you in many ways. If she
cannot receive you now, you must be content to wait till another
time. Meanwhile you, Gania, just look over these accounts, will
you? We mustn't forget to finish off that matter--"
The general left the room, and the prince never succeeded in
broaching the business which he had on hand, though he had
endeavoured to do so four times.
Gania lit a cigarette and offered one to the prince. The
latter accepted the offer, but did not talk, being unwilling to
disturb Gania's work. He commenced to examine the study and its
contents. But Gania hardly so much as glanced at the papers lying
before him; he was absent and thoughtful, and his smile and
general appearance struck the prince still more disagreeably now
that the two were left alone together.
Suddenly Gania approached our hero who was at the moment standing
over Nastasia Philipovna's portrait, gazing at it.
"Do you admire that sort of woman, prince?" he asked, looking
intently at him. He seemed to have some special object in the
"It's a wonderful face," said the prince, "and I feel sure that
her destiny is not by any means an ordinary, uneventful one. Her
face is smiling enough, but she must have suffered terribly--
hasn't she? Her eyes show it--those two bones there, the little
points under her eyes, just where the cheek begins. It's a proud
face too, terribly proud! And I--I can't say whether she is good
and kind, or not. Oh, if she be but good! That would make all
"And would you marry a woman like that, now?" continued Gania,
never taking his excited eyes off the prince's face.
"I cannot marry at all," said the latter. "I am an invalid."
"Would Rogojin marry her, do you think?"
"Why not? Certainly he would, I should think. He would marry her
tomorrow!--marry her tomorrow and murder her in a week!"
Hardly had the prince uttered the last word when Gania gave such
a fearful shudder that the prince almost cried out.
"What's the matter?" said he, seizing Gania's hand.
"Your highness! His excellency begs your presence in her
excellency's apartments!" announced the footman, appearing at the
The prince immediately followed the man out of the room.
ALL three of the Miss Epanchins were fine, healthy girls, well-
grown, with good shoulders and busts, and strong--almost
masculine--hands; and, of course, with all the above attributes,
they enjoyed capital appetites, of which they were not in the
Elizabetha Prokofievna sometimes informed the girls that they
were a little too candid in this matter, but in spite of their
outward deference to their mother these three young women, in
solemn conclave, had long agreed to modify the unquestioning
obedience which they had been in the habit of according to her;
and Mrs. General Epanchin had judged it better to say nothing
about it, though, of course, she was well aware of the fact.
It is true that her nature sometimes rebelled against these
dictates of reason, and that she grew yearly more capricious and
impatient; but having a respectful and well-disciplined husband
under her thumb at all times, she found it possible, as a rule,
to empty any little accumulations of spleen upon his head, and
therefore the harmony of the family was kept duly balanced, and
things went as smoothly as family matters can.
Mrs. Epanchin had a fair appetite herself, and generally took her
share of the capital mid-day lunch which was always served for
the girls, and which was nearly as good as a dinner. The young
ladies used to have a cup of coffee each before this meal, at ten
o'clock, while still in bed. This was a favourite and unalterable
arrangement with them. At half-past twelve, the table was laid in
the small dining-room, and occasionally the general himself
appeared at the family gathering, if he had time.
Besides tea and coffee, cheese, honey, butter, pan-cakes of
various kinds (the lady of the house loved these best), cutlets,
and so on, there was generally strong beef soup, and other
On the particular morning on which our story has opened, the
family had assembled in the dining-room, and were waiting the
general's appearance, the latter having promised to come this
day. If he had been one moment late, he would have been sent for
at once; but he turned up punctually.
As he came forward to wish his wife good-morning and kiss her
hands, as his custom was, he observed something in her look which
boded ill. He thought he knew the reason, and had expected it,
but still, he was not altogether comfortable. His daughters
advanced to kiss him, too, and though they did not look exactly
angry, there was something strange in their expression as well.
The general was, owing to certain circumstances, a little
inclined to be too suspicious at home, and needlessly nervous;
but, as an experienced father and husband, he judged it better to
take measures at once to protect himself from any dangers there
might be in the air.
However, I hope I shall not interfere with the proper sequence of
my narrative too much, if I diverge for a moment at this point,
in order to explain the mutual relations between General
Epanchin's family and others acting a part in this history, at
the time when we take up the thread of their destiny. I have
already stated that the general, though he was a man of lowly
origin, and of poor education, was, for all that, an experienced
and talented husband and father. Among other things, he
considered it undesirable to hurry his daughters to the
matrimonial altar and to worry them too much with assurances of
his paternal wishes for their happiness, as is the custom among
parents of many grown-up daughters. He even succeeded in ranging
his wife on his side on this question, though he found the feat
very difficult to accomplish, because unnatural; but the
general's arguments were conclusive, and founded upon obvious
facts. The general considered that the girls' taste and good
sense should be allowed to develop and mature deliberately, and
that the parents' duty should merely be to keep watch, in order
that no strange or undesirable choice be made; but that the
selection once effected, both father and mother were bound from
that moment to enter heart and soul into the cause, and to see
that the matter progressed without hindrance until the altar
should be happily reached.
Besides this, it was clear that the Epanchins' position gained
each year, with geometrical accuracy, both as to financial
solidity and social weight; and, therefore, the longer the girls
waited, the better was their chance of making a brilliant match.
But again, amidst the incontrovertible facts just recorded, one
more, equally significant, rose up to confront the family; and
this was, that the eldest daughter, Alexandra, had imperceptibly
arrived at her twenty-fifth birthday. Almost at the same moment,
Afanasy Ivanovitch Totski, a man of immense wealth, high
connections, and good standing, announced his intention of
marrying. Afanasy Ivanovitch was a gentleman of fifty-five years
of age, artistically gifted, and of most refined tastes. He
wished to marry well, and, moreover, he was a keen admirer and
judge of beauty.
Now, since Totski had, of late, been upon terms of great
cordiality with Epanchin, which excellent relations were
intensified by the fact that they were, so to speak, partners in
several financial enterprises, it so happened that the former now
put in a friendly request to the general for counsel with regard
to the important step he meditated. Might he suggest, for
instance, such a thing as a marriage between himself and one of
the general's daughters?
Evidently the quiet, pleasant current of the family life of the
Epanchins was about to undergo a change.
The undoubted beauty of the family, par excellence, was the
youngest, Aglaya, as aforesaid. But Totski himself, though an
egotist of the extremest type, realized that he had no chance
there; Aglaya was clearly not for such as he.
Perhaps the sisterly love and friendship of the three girls had
more or less exaggerated Aglaya's chances of happiness. In their
opinion, the latter's destiny was not merely to be very happy;
she was to live in a heaven on earth. Aglaya's husband was to be
a compendium of all the virtues, and of all success, not to speak
of fabulous wealth. The two elder sisters had agreed that all was
to be sacrificed by them, if need be, for Aglaya's sake; her
dowry was to be colossal and unprecedented.
The general and his wife were aware of this agreement, and,
therefore, when Totski suggested himself for one of the sisters,
the parents made no doubt that one of the two elder girls would
probably accept the offer, since Totski would certainly make no
difficulty as to dowry. The general valued the proposal very
highly. He knew life, and realized what such an offer was worth.
The answer of the sisters to the communication was, if not
conclusive, at least consoling and hopeful. It made known that
the eldest, Alexandra, would very likely be disposed to listen to
Alexandra was a good-natured girl, though she had a will of her
own. She was intelligent and kind-hearted, and, if she were to
marry Totski, she would make him a good wife. She did not care
for a brilliant marriage; she was eminently a woman calculated to
soothe and sweeten the life of any man; decidedly pretty, if not
absolutely handsome. What better could Totski wish?
So the matter crept slowly forward. The general and Totski had
agreed to avoid any hasty and irrevocable step. Alexandra's
parents had not even begun to talk to their daughters freely upon
the subject, when suddenly, as it were, a dissonant chord was
struck amid the harmony of the proceedings. Mrs. Epanchin began
to show signs of discontent, and that was a serious matter. A
certain circumstance had crept in, a disagreeable and troublesome
factor, which threatened to overturn the whole business.
This circumstance had come into existence eighteen years before.
Close to an estate of Totski's, in one of the central provinces
of Russia, there lived, at that time, a poor gentleman whose
estate was of the wretchedest description. This gentleman was
noted in the district for his persistent ill-fortune; his name
was Barashkoff, and, as regards family and descent, he was vastly
superior to Totski, but his estate was mortgaged to the last
acre. One day, when he had ridden over to the town to see a
creditor, the chief peasant of his village followed him shortly
after, with the news that his house had been burnt down, and that
his wife had perished with it, but his children were safe.
Even Barashkoff, inured to the storms of evil fortune as he was,
could not stand this last stroke. He went mad and died shortly
after in the town hospital. His estate was sold for the
creditors; and the little girls--two of them, of seven and eight
years of age respectively,--were adopted by Totski, who undertook
their maintenance and education in the kindness of his heart.
They were brought up together with the children of his German
bailiff. Very soon, however, there was only one of them left-
Nastasia Philipovna--for the other little one died of whooping-
cough. Totski, who was living abroad at this time, very soon
forgot all about the child; but five years after, returning to
Russia, it struck him that he would like to look over his estate
and see how matters were going there, and, arrived at his
bailiff's house, he was not long in discovering that among the
children of the latter there now dwelt a most lovely little girl
of twelve, sweet and intelligent, and bright, and promising to
develop beauty of most unusual quality-as to which last Totski
was an undoubted authority.
He only stayed at his country scat a few days on this occasion,
but he had time to make his arrangements. Great changes took
place in the child's education; a good governess was engaged, a
Swiss lady of experience and culture. For four years this lady
resided in the house with little Nastia, and then the education
was considered complete. The governess took her departure, and
another lady came down to fetch Nastia, by Totski's instructions.
The child was now transported to another of Totski's estates in a
distant part of the country. Here she found a delightful little
house, just built, and prepared for her reception with great care
and taste; and here she took up her abode together with the lady
who had accompanied her from her old home. In the house there
were two experienced maids, musical instruments of all sorts, a
charming "young lady's library," pictures, paint-boxes, a lap-
dog, and everything to make life agreeable. Within a fortnight
Totski himself arrived, and from that time he appeared to have
taken a great fancy to this part of the world and came down each
summer, staying two and three months at a time. So passed four
years peacefully and happily, in charming surroundings.
At the end of that time, and about four months after Totski's
last visit (he had stayed but a fortnight on this occasion), a
report reached Nastasia Philipovna that he was about to be
married in St. Petersburg, to a rich, eminent, and lovely woman.
The report was only partially true, the marriage project being
only in an embryo condition; but a great change now came over
Nastasia Philipovna. She suddenly displayed unusual decision of
character; and without wasting time in thought, she left her
country home and came up to St. Petersburg, straight to Totski's
house, all alone.
The latter, amazed at her conduct, began to express his
displeasure; but he very soon became aware that he must change
his voice, style, and everything else, with this young lady; the
good old times were gone. An entirely new and different woman sat
before him, between whom and the girl he had left in the country
last July there seemed nothing in common.
In the first place, this new woman understood a good deal more
than was usual for young people of her age; so much indeed, that
Totski could not help wondering where she had picked up her
knowledge. Surely not from her "young lady's library"? It even
embraced legal matters, and the "world" in general, to a
Her character was absolutely changed. No more of the girlish
alternations of timidity and petulance, the adorable naivete, the
reveries, the tears, the playfulness... It was an entirely new and
hitherto unknown being who now sat and laughed at him, and
informed him to his face that she had never had the faintest
feeling for him of any kind, except loathing and contempt--
contempt which had followed closely upon her sensations of
surprise and bewilderment after her first acquaintance with him.
This new woman gave him further to understand that though it was
absolutely the same to her whom he married, yet she had decided
to prevent this marriage--for no particular reason, but that she
chose to do so, and because she wished to amuse herself at his
expense for that it was "quite her turn to laugh a little now!"
Such were her words--very likely she did not give her real
reason for this eccentric conduct; but, at all events, that was
all the explanation she deigned to offer.
Meanwhile, Totski thought the matter over as well as his
scattered ideas would permit. His meditations lasted a fortnight,
however, and at the end of that time his resolution was taken.
The fact was, Totski was at that time a man of fifty years of
age; his position was solid and respectable; his place in society
had long been firmly fixed upon safe foundations; he loved
himself, his personal comforts, and his position better than all
the world, as every respectable gentleman should!
At the same time his grasp of things in general soon showed
Totski that he now had to deal with a being who was outside the
pale of the ordinary rules of traditional behaviour, and who
would not only threaten mischief but would undoubtedly carry it
out, and stop for no one.
There was evidently, he concluded, something at work here; some
storm of the mind, some paroxysm of romantic anger, goodness
knows against whom or what, some insatiable contempt--in a word,
something altogether absurd and impossible, but at the same time
most dangerous to be met with by any respectable person with a
position in society to keep up.
For a man of Totski's wealth and standing, it would, of course,
have been the simplest possible matter to take steps which would
rid him at once from all annoyance; while it was obviously
impossible for Nastasia Philipovna to harm him in any way, either
legally or by stirring up a scandal, for, in case of the latter
danger, he could so easily remove her to a sphere of safety.
However, these arguments would only hold good in case of Nastasia
acting as others might in such an emergency. She was much more
likely to overstep the bounds of reasonable conduct by some
Here the sound judgment of Totski stood him in good stead. He
realized that Nastasia Philipovna must be well aware that she
could do nothing by legal means to injure him, and that her
flashing eyes betrayed some entirely different intention.
Nastasia Philipovna was quite capable of ruining herself, and
even of perpetrating something which would send her to Siberia,
for the mere pleasure of injuring a man for whom she had
developed so inhuman a sense of loathing and contempt. He had
sufficient insight to understand that she valued nothing in the
world--herself least of all--and he made no attempt to conceal
the fact that he was a coward in some respects. For instance, if
he had been told that he would be stabbed at the altar, or
publicly insulted, he would undoubtedly have been frightened; but
not so much at the idea of being murdered, or wounded, or
insulted, as at the thought that if such things were to happen he
would be made to look ridiculous in the eyes of society.
He knew well that Nastasia thoroughly understood him and where to
wound him and how, and therefore, as the marriage was still only
in embryo, Totski decided to conciliate her by giving it up. His
decision was strengthened by the fact that Nastasia Philipovna
had curiously altered of late. It would be difficult to conceive
how different she was physically, at the present time, to the
girl of a few years ago. She was pretty then . . . but now! . . .
Totski laughed angrily when he thought how short-sighted he had
been. In days gone by he remembered how he had looked at her
beautiful eyes, how even then he had marvelled at their dark
mysterious depths, and at their wondering gaze which seemed to
seek an answer to some unknown riddle. Her complexion also had
altered. She was now exceedingly pale, but, curiously, this
change only made her more beautiful. Like most men of the world,
Totski had rather despised such a cheaply-bought conquest, but of
late years he had begun to think differently about it. It had
struck him as long ago as last spring that he ought to be finding
a good match for Nastasia; for instance, some respectable and
reasonable young fellow serving in a government office in another
part of the country. How maliciously Nastasia laughed at the idea
of such a thing, now!
However, it appeared to Totski that he might make use of her in
another way; and he determined to establish her in St.
Petersburg, surrounding her with all the comforts and luxuries
that his wealth could command. In this way he might gain glory in
Five years of this Petersburg life went by, and, of course,
during that time a great deal happened. Totski's position was
very uncomfortable; having "funked" once, he could not totally
regain his ease. He was afraid, he did not know why, but he was
simply afraid of Nastasia Philipovna. For the first two years or
so he had suspected that she wished to marry him herself, and
that only her vanity prevented her telling him so. He thought
that she wanted him to approach her with a humble proposal from
his own side, But to his great, and not entirely pleasurable
amazement, he discovered that this was by no means the case, and
that were he to offer himself he would be refused. He could not
understand such a state of things, and was obliged to conclude
that it was pride, the pride of an injured and imaginative woman,
which had gone to such lengths that it preferred to sit and nurse
its contempt and hatred in solitude rather than mount to heights
of hitherto unattainable splendour. To make matters worse, she
was quite impervious to mercenary considerations, and could not
be bribed in any way.
Finally, Totski took cunning means to try to break his chains and
be free. He tried to tempt her in various ways to lose her heart;
he invited princes, hussars, secretaries of embassies, poets,
novelists, even Socialists, to see her; but not one of them all
made the faintest impression upon Nastasia. It was as though she
had a pebble in place of a heart, as though her feelings and
affections were dried up and withered for ever.
She lived almost entirely alone; she read, she studied, she loved
music. Her principal acquaintances were poor women of various
grades, a couple of actresses, and the family of a poor
schoolteacher. Among these people she was much beloved.
She received four or five friends sometimes, of an evening.
Totski often came. Lately, too, General Epanchin had been enabled
with great difficulty to introduce himself into her circle. Gania
made her acquaintance also, and others were Ferdishenko, an ill-
bred, and would-be witty, young clerk, and Ptitsin, a money-
lender of modest and polished manners, who had risen from
poverty. In fact, Nastasia Philipovna's beauty became a thing
known to all the town; but not a single man could boast of
anything more than his own admiration for her; and this
reputation of hers, and her wit and culture and grace, all
confirmed Totski in the plan he had now prepared.
And it was at this moment that General Epanchin began to play so
large and important a part in the story.